Stephen A. Smith rips James Harden

Russell Westbrook will probably win the MVP anyway, but it’s a good thing for James Harden that voting takes place before the playoffs. While Harden’s Rockets bested Westbrook’s Thunder in the first round, Harden generally had an underwhelming playoff performance this spring, ending Thursday with a putrid showing on his home floor against the Spurs. Harden did not even attempt a shot until late in the first half, and he finished with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting, seven assists and six turnovers before fouling out.

It didn’t take long for fans and media pundits to start ripping into the Rockets star with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith leading the charge, saying Harden was so bad that “he looked like he was drugged.”

“I think there needs to be an investigation to be quite honest with you. He looked like he was drugged out there for crying out loud. Literally comatose. I don’t know who the hell that was playing for the Houston Rockets, but it wasn’t the James Harden that I’ve been watching all year. … That dude did not show up for the Houston Rockets tonight. He looked absolutely awful, abysmal, just literally comatose. He didn’t show up.

“Somebody might have slipped something into his drink. Somebody might have done something to him. I have no clue. But that is not James Harden that showed up for the Houston Rockets tonight. Somebody with his jersey showed up. It wasn’t him. I cannot believe what I saw.”

As Smith went on to point out, Harden has a historical of atrocious playoff performances. In the 2015 playoffs, the Rockets made an incredible comeback to force a Game 7 against the Clippers in the second round with Harden on the bench. When the Rockets lost the following series to the Warriors in five, Harden shot 2-for-11 with 12 turnovers in the final game.

Stephen A. said Thursday’s performance was the worst yet, although that’s up for interpretation. But it was bad enough that one league executive texted ESPN’s Chris Haynes about point shaving.

At the 5:09 mark in the above video, Smith reveals that Hall of Fame players were blowing up his phone saying Harden quit.

“I’ve had five Hall of Famers — five! — text me and literally have accused James Harden of quitting. I don’t know what to say to that because I think that’s a bit excessive. But they’re Hall of Famers who are champions who know what is required, who know what it takes, and they are literally texting me right now: ‘He quit, Stephen A. He quit.” This is what they’re saying. This is a very, very bad night for James Harden, and because it’s the series clincher, it’s the kind of stuff that’s going to stay with him not just the entire offseason, but into next season. … It’s not about playing bad, it’s that he appeared passive and a completely no-show.”

As much as I hate ESPN having Stephen A. Smith yell at my face, in this case he’s basically right. I mean, just look at some of these plays.

Jalen Rose and Chauncey Billups echoed Smith’s sentiments, criticizing Harden’s lack of effort and inspiration.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden has been battling a cold, but he clearly wasn’t in the mood to talk too deeply about his star’s performance.

At least Harden took responsibility for the team’s defeat and elimination.

This night will definitely be a part of Harden’s legacy.


About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.